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PORTLAND-Port of Portland commissioners united Tuesday to select Bill Wyatt as the Port’s new executive director. In doing so they cited his political savvy, his ability to run a public agency and his experience handling environmental issues. Wyatt, chief of staff to Gov. John Kitzhaber for the past seven years, will need all those skills if he wants to lead the Port out of the rough waters it sits in now.

Maritime trade and grain exports are down, as are cargo and passengers flying in and out of Portland International Airport, which no longer has direct flights to Asia. To boot, the Portland harbor is a superfund site, and the Columbia River channel deepening project is mired in an environmental mess of its own.

Less than a month ago, in an executive session, the port’s nine commission members split 5-4 on who to hire, Wyatt or Matt Chapman, the former chairman of Concentrex, a dot-com that had a meteoric rise to $100 million in sales before experiencing and equally meteoric fall.

At least one commercial real estate company didn’t want Chapman running the port. In a letter to the port commissioners that some say helped split the August vote. Ron Beltz of Louis Dreyfus, Concentrex’s former landlord, says Chapman failed to make rent payments on time, among other things. Chapman admits as much, but says he paid up eventually, including interest and late fees.

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